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Appeals court rejects California's ban on high-capacity magazines

Appeals court rejects California's ban on high-capacity magazines
© Karen Ducey/Getty Images

A federal appeals court rejected California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, saying the state’s rule violated the Second Amendment.

Judge Kenneth Lee, part of a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that California’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment — the right to armed self-defense.”

Lee, a Trump appointee, acknowledged that the law was passed following mass shootings that gripped the nation but decided the rule’s scope “is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California.”

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The ruling follows a similar decision from a district court that the rule infringes upon citizens’ rights to defend themselves.

“California’s law prohibiting acquisition and possession of magazines able to hold any more than 10 rounds places a severe restriction on the core right of self-defense of the home such that it amounts to a destruction of the right and is unconstitutional under any level of scrutiny,” District Judge Roger Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in an 86-page decision in March. 

The Friday ruling was backed by two of the three judges on the panel, including Consuelo Callahan, a George W. Bush appointee.

The third judge assigned to the case at the appellate level, District Judge Barbara Lynn of Texas, warned that the decision contradicts rulings in six other federal appellate courts and a 2015 ruling from the 9th Circuit.

“The majority opinion conflicts with this Circuit’s precedent ... and with decisions in every other Circuit to address the Second Amendment issue presented here. I am willing to at least assume that the law at issue implicates conduct protected by the Second Amendment, but I part ways with the majority regarding the appropriate level of scrutiny and its application in this case. I would reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment. I respectfully dissent,” she wrote.

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The lawsuit was filed by gun rights activists with backing from the National Rifle Association against California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraBecerra calls on Hispanic Americans to sign up for ACA Overnight Health Care: All adults in US now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine | White House launches media blitz to promote vaccines Top House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border MORE (D), whose office said it is reviewing the decision.

“We are carefully reviewing the decision, with the goal of protecting public safety,” an advisor for Becerra said in a statement. “Until further court proceedings, the stay on the injunction issued by the district court remains in place. The Attorney General remains committed to using every tool possible to defend California's gun safety laws and keep our communities safe.” 

Becerra’s office did not immediately say if it would ask a larger 11-judge appellate panel to reconsider the decision or if he has any plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

California is widely considered to have some of the strictest gun control policies in the country, though it is unclear how Friday’s decision may impact similar rules in other states restricting magazine capacities.

California Rifle & Pistol Association attorney Chuck Michel told The Associated Press the ruling was “a huge victory” for gun owners “and the right to choose to own a firearm to defend your family.”